Beginning from Sunday, January 14, 2018, a thirty-eight week football hostilities would be commenced among twenty professional football clubs sides across the country as the 2017/2018 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, season kicks-off.
Among the twenty participating clubs that would be facing one another on home and away fixtures include 2016/2017 NPFL champions Plateau United of Jos, runners-up MFM FC of Lagos and Eyimba FC of Aba as well as the 2017 Federation Cup winner, Akwa United.
These four teams apart from their playing in the nation’s premier league will also be representing Nigeria in this year’s Confederation of African Football, CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup.
Other club side that would be doing battle for the 2017/2018 NPFL prized trophy are the league’s 2016 champions, Rangers International, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Rivers United, Niger Tornadoes of Minna, Bauchi’s Wikki Tourists and Kano Pillars.
Also in the league this season are Nasarawa United, Abia Warriors, El Kanemi Warriors of Marduguri, Lobi Stars of Markudi, Katsina United and Sunshine Stars of Akure.
The remaining four club sides are new comers into the elite league including; Heartland of Owerri, Yobe Desert Warriors, Kwara United and Go-round FC of Nnewi.
The commencement of the new league season was announced in November 2017, in Kano after the conclusion of the NPFL pre-season tournament held in Kano, with domestic Super Eagles enroute CHAN 2018 in Morocco winning the trophy.
Since the announcement of the date for the commencement of the season, all the twenty participating club sides have unzipped the armoury to dig out what weapons in terms of players, tactics and strategies to be unleashed on the opponents during the thirty-eight football square ups.
For instance, each of the clubs has been active in the player and coaches transfer market to shop for legs and tactician that would effectively prosecute their games plans for a successful league season.
Each of the teams has even withdrawn to selected camps away from their home base for pre-season preparations ahead of their match day one fixtures.
Top among the day one fixtures billed for Sunday January 14, 2018 was the clash of Nasarawa United with the defending champions Plateau United, returnees’ Heartland FC against the Akure Gunners, Sunshine Stars, Lobi Stars versus Enyimba and Kastina United against Kano Pillars, among others.
However, the administrators of NPFL, LMC has a lot to do in order to make the new league season interesting and worthwhile for all stakeholders, clubs, players, and their officials, match officials, club fans, footballer lovers, and the public at large.
First, LMC must put strategies, mechanism, procedures and diversifying measures in place against any club side, players, officials, match handler as well as fans, to guide against the types of untoward acts, which characterised the league in 2017, that nearly rubbished its organization and success.
It is on record that some match referees were manhandled by some overzealous club fans last season.
In fact, three fans of Wikki Tourists of Bauchi were remanded in prison for beating a centre referee to pulp.
Also, there were complaints of poor crowd control, match fixing, unjustified calls by some match officials leading to fracas at match venues.
All these and related issues must be properly taken care of as the new NPFL season takes centre stage.
The League Management Company should also visit all the designated stadia to ascertain their suitability for hosting matches.
There is also the need to prioritize security at stadia by partnering the police and other security agencies to maintain law and order before, during and after league matches.
In the same manner, LMC must see to it that, clubs have comprehensive welfare plans including good travelling logistic for the players and officials, to minimize risks, especially road accidents and armed robbery.
Players sign on fees salaries, match bonus and other allowance must be paid fully as at when due, to bring out quality performance from these personnel as doing so will engender a competitive season.
LMC should also carefully look for top class sponsor or sponsors to promote, add value and raise the bar of the NPFL to international standard and wide acceptance.
Cases of misdemeanor against any party during the cause of the season should be promptly and objectively considered and appropriate sanctions not only pronounced but seen to have been melted out accordingly without fear or bias.
Lastly, those club sides representing the country in continental assignment as well as teams like Enyimba that have some of their players in the domestic Super Eagle to CHAN 2018 in Morocco should be given some consideration when fixing dates for their outstanding games.
Let’s commend LMC and Nigeria Football Federation, NFF for organizing series of workshops, seminars and other forms of trainning for virtually all parties involved with the running of the 2017/2018 NPFL season.
It is hoped every concerned party in the league would work together towards making the new NPFL season a huge success.